Loaves and Dishes

Silence is an underrated blessing. We live in a world of near constant noise. To take time out, to step away from the livestream of everything everyone else is doing, to calm my heart and sit before the throne of God without prattling on about what I want from Him is an amazing experience.

A few months ago, I participated in a prayer and worship service. The highlight of the night, for me, was the 10 minutes of silent corporate prayer. We all sat together, hushed in reverence of the Creator, and allowed Him to speak to us.

That evening, I saw a scene that has stayed with me. We were all gathered, everyone in the room, coming home for a feast–as scattered relatives return to the family homestead for Thanksgiving. Yet, we were all outside the place where the meal was being served, arguing with one another about the dishes. Not who would wash them, but what china pattern was best and whose settings should be used.

Suddenly, a plate struck the wall, shattering to bits and startling us all into reticence. We moved into the banquet room then and were shocked to see the tables, low to the ground, Middle Eastern style. There were no plates at all, but communal serving platters from which were to help ourselves, bite by bite.

That scene returned to me as I lay in bed this morning. When I first saw the images, what stood out to me the most was the plate, breaking to bits against the wall. I understood the symbolism as a verdict against the Church’s arguing with one another over trivial matters of policy, rather than joining together to share the bounty of God’s blessings that had been prepared for us. Today, I realized I’d missed something. In a traditional meal where everyone shares a common serving dish, individuals eat a flatbread of sorts (like tortilla or pita or naan), using it to scoop up bites of the main course. I realized that not only are we arguing over the plates that aren’t even a part of the feast, but such disputes have completely taken our focus off the Bread.

“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:33-35, NIV)

The Kingdom of Heaven is not about me. It’s not about what I have done or not done. That is not to say that my actions have no importance, just that I cannot change the essential nature of Christ’s Kingdom. He invites me in to join the feast, but the feast is not my doing. There is no place at the table for arrogance that my china is being used. This is the wedding feast of the Lamb and we are here as His Bride, to celebrate with Him. The only way to enjoy this great banquet is to eat the Bread (Matthew 26:26).

Lord Jesus,

Thank You for giving Yourself to be the Bread of Life. Thank You that through Your life and death and resurrection, I can come to the feast, that You honor me as Your bride, and I am invited eat my fill. Help me to remember Your preeminence over any understanding or practice of my faith, to know that You are the One in whom I have faith and any other aspect comes distantly second. Let me choose to embrace each individual member of the family within the unity of You, rather than trying to assert the superiority of one tradition over another. May we be one as You and the Father are one (John 17:16-26). Amen.

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Don’t Wanna

I don’t want to write today. I don’t want to think about life and why stuff got hard this morning and how to deal. Here’s the thing. We rent our house. We had contacted the management company to get our sink fixed because it was leaking into the cabinet below. The guy came to fix the sink a week or so ago. It seems to be fine now and I haven’t heard from him since. Only this morning, while I was getting ready to wash some dishes, I discovered that 1) our sponge was missing and 2) we had a new stopper in the sink.

In addition to that, the kids have been scaring themselves (and, quite frankly, me) the last couple of days by pretending there is a person hiding in the shadows of our basement. We only moved in here a few weeks ago and they’re not used to having a basement yet, so I’m guessing this is just a way to play with their actual fears that someone might be in the basement. Only, I’m not amused by the game. It creeps me out to think that someone could get in our door, head down the back stairs, and be lurking about down there.

Between their games, which they played multiple rounds of this morning, and the changes to the sink which DH told me he hadn’t made, I had a minor panic attack. It wasn’t so much a heart-racing , shaking-in-my-boots kind, but more “I’m angry at the world because they just can’t stay out of my space.” I felt violated that someone had been in the house unannounced. We’re supposed to have 24 hours’ notice for a non-emergency visit. I got no notice at all. It felt like a huge invasion of privacy as well as making the house feel unsafe.

Emotionally, safety and control are pretty closely linked for me. I feel safe when I feel in control of stuff. If I have the keys to the house and I control who can come in and who can’t, the house feels safe. If random people can come and go without my knowledge, that feels very unsafe.

I understand that, realistically, I’m not in control of much. That’s one of the things God’s been working on in my life. As DH and I tell DD (who is very much like me in personality), we humans are only in control of two things: our attitude and our behavior. I don’t like that, but there it is.

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. (John 4:18, TLB)

For about a year between high school and college, I met with an older-than-me Christian woman for mentoring once a week. One of the verses she had me memorize was John 4:18 in the Living Bible translation. That part that gets me every time is the last “we are not fully convinced that he really loves us.”

God,

I had a hard time with this verse 20 years ago because I wasn’t ready to admit that I was not fully convinced that You really love me. Today, I know that’s the truth. I have always had trouble confusing gratitude for love . I am always looking for ways to do things for people so that they will be grateful that I’m around, as though that’s some sort of litmus test indicating their love for me. It doesn’t work that way, though. That’s a good thing, because I can’t do anything for You. There is nothing You need. I can’t provide anything that You don’t already have. Except me. All I have to offer You is myself. But to give myself wholeheartedly to You, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, I have to trust that You really do love me and I have nothing to fear from You.

Trust is a pain in the neck. Even knowing that You offer me security that’s way bigger than I could ever provide myself, even understanding that what I don’t understand is significantly more than what I do, it’s hard for me to just give up the sense of control I keep trying to cling to, thinking it will keep me safe.

In some ways, it’s so easy. I don’t understand how a car works, but I get into one nearly every day. I don’t know most other drivers on the street, yet I trust that they’ll stay on their side of the yellow lines and stop when the light turns red. Even though I know sometimes they won’t. So how come, even after You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, do I find it so much harder to believe You when You tell me that You’ll always be there? Why is it such a struggle to choose to let go and rest in Your provision? When You offer to love me for free, why do I keep trying to earn it?